In his article “You can learn to be creative, if you’re willing to embarrass yourself” for Quartz, James Clear begins with this premise: Our understanding of groundbreaking ideas is often propelled by storytelling in which a centrally organizing epiphany drives a brilliant creative accomplishment. Don’t be fooled. You don’t have to be a genius to create a top-notch discovery, invention or creation.

Taking the example of Newton and the discovery of the Laws of Gravity, Clear points out that Newton worked with the concepts for the Laws of Gravity for around 20 years before publishing. That’s more than the “eureka” moment we usually imagine when we think of Newton, and it proves it has always taken a lot more than a great idea to ship.

In fact, as Clear found in his research, “As long as you meet a threshold of intelligence, then brilliant creative work is well within your reach. In the words of researchers from a 2013 study, ‘we obtained evidence that once the intelligence threshold is met, personality factors become more predictive for creativity.'”

What does that mean for those of us who feel we don’t have everything we need to create? According to Clear, our personality traits are the drivers for our success in doing creative work and thus for the laws of creativity. Namely, we can adopt those traits that are compatible to reaching our creative goals.

As Clear defines them: 

  1. Adopt a “growth mindset”–if we imagine we are plastic, and therefore capable of change and growth, we in fact are. 
  2. Let go of the fear of embarrassment—without this fear, we overcome an internal obstacle to doing deep creative work. 

In my experience—including decades spent working with the brightest in filmmaking—I can attest that it’s true. The people who have achieved the most aren’t necessarily the most obvious successes. What they share is a willingness to labor in their craft, ship their best work, and respond to their audience in order to improve their next creative cycle.

I challenge you to set a goal. What will you ship?

Click here to see my related post about what actress Mindy Kaling says about hard work.